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VIDEO: Delta congressman says he has a better alternative to governor's tunnels

Post Date:09/01/2017 2:59 PM

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by Gene Beley, Delta Correspondent

California Delta congressman Jerry McNerney says he has a better approach to help the entire nation secure more water reliability than a Jerry living in the California Governor's mansion with tunnel visions.

And some of it is about as simple as plugging leaks.

Mr. McNerney told reporters in Stockton this week in front of the Stocton's city marina that legislation he is introducing in Congress will shift the narrative from tunnel visions of massive water tunnels to more practical, forward thinking solutions.

Watch a video of the press conference here☺

Congressman McNerney Press Conference 71717prel-5 from Gene Beley on Vimeo. 

"It supports innovative technologies and infrastructures for urban and agriculture areas that will help fix leaky pipes and aging infrastructure," said Mr. McNerney about his new bill in Congress.

In short, fixing leaky pipes will produce more water than building the 40-foot in diameter twin tunnels that would go 150 feet underground for 35 miles from Clarksburg and Hood to Tracy and cost anywhere from $15 billion to $67 billion with interest, depending on who is giving out the financial information.

"Nearly two trillion gallons of water are lost each year to the leakage in pipes in broken water mains and meters," Mr. McNerney said.  He added that in 2010 U.S. water systems consumed about 13 percent of the nation's energy.  "In California that number is closer to 20 percent.  We should be focusing on things like leak detection," he said.

The Stockton Democrat said there is no current real time technology to detect leaks in pipes and people who see the leaks usually call the leaks into different agencies.

"Instead of spending the $25 billion on tunnels that won't produce any new water or increase water sustainability throughout the state, we should be focusing on other issues like conservation capture and recycling," he said.

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, the executive director of Restore the Delta, an organization that opposes Mr. Brown's Delta tunnels project, said water efficiency projects create 10-20 jobs per $1 million spent.

"These are decent paying jobs that give families a pathway to having a stable life.  Water efficiency, like clean energy jobs, can transform our San Joaquin Valley and national economy," she said, adding that Mr. McNerney's bill "is a perfect way to start this economic and environmental transition."

Michael Brodsky, the attorney for Save the California Delta Alliance based in Discovery Bay, called Mr. McNerney "the voice of reason in what has been an irrational process up to now."  He added that Governor Brown "has literally lost his mind," to which he got applause and "woos!" from the audience.

"Not only will the governor's water tunnels wreck the ecology of the beautiful Delta that you see behind me (the Stockton City Marina on the San Joaquin River) the construction of the facilities will obliterate, literally obliterate our Delta communities of Clarksburg, Hood, Locke, and Walnut Grove.  These places will be destroyed by the construction of the tunnels," Mr. said.

He added that the Edmondson Pumping Plant, which pushes the Delta water over the Tehachapi Mountains south of Bakersfield, "is the single largest user of electricity in California.  If you took the electricity that it takes to run those pumps and put them into desalination and recycling plants, it would produce more water than is pumped over the mountains."

Other officials there to support the congressman's new bill were Chad Davidson, general manager of the Ironhouse Sanitary District in Contra Costa County; Fritz Buchman, deputy director for the San Joaquin Public Works Department; Vince DeLange, general manager of Delta Diablo that services Antioch, Pittsburg and Bay Point; and Jayne Strommer, excecutive director of the Western Recycled Water Coalition.

About the McNerney Legislation

Dubbed the "Water and Energy Sustainability through Technology Act" or WEST Act, the legislation includes provisions that support new technologies and infrastructure for urban and agricultural areas, as well as efforts to improve efficiency.

Currently, the United States uses approximately 80 billion gallons of fresh groundwater per day.  Under the WEST Act, reimbursements would be authorized for recycling and reuse projects that create new water.  The bill contends that regional self-sufficiency would be improved through the encouragement of stormwater capture and increased water storage.  It would also require a study on ways to improve leak detection location, mapping, and communications for pipeline systems and provide grants to implement these solutions.

The WEST Act would also establish a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation groundwater information system and groundwater management technical assistance, in addition to a smart energy and water efficiency program to support innovative technology solutions for agricultural use and to improve efficiency at federal buildings.

"This bill is the result of extensive engagement with a diverse group of stakeholders - including farmers, technology innovators, industry and community leaders," Mr. McNerney says.  "These are tangible, commonsense approaches that we can accomplish in the short-term that will benefit all of us in the long-term."

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